(Eye-opening) Insomnia Facts: Including Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Humans spend approximately one-third of their life sleeping, unfortunately it’s a lot less than that for insomniacs!

The Definition of Insomnia

1. Insomnia: the condition of being unable to sleep, over a period of time.

Insomnia is the condition of being unable to sleep, over a period of time

So what is insomnia?

Insomnia is a condition that involves being unable to sleep and comes in different forms, including primary and secondary insomnia.

  • Primary is when your inability to sleep is not linked to any other condition, with secondary insomnia being when your sleeplessness is caused by another condition, for example depression or cancer.
  • Then there’s chronic and acute insomnia, with acute insomnia lasting from one night to a couple of weeks and chronic insomnia being when someone suffers at least three nights a week for a month or longer.

Whichever form an insomniac suffers from it can have a seriously detrimental effect on their life, and as a condition it’s much more common than you might think.

General Insomnia Facts

Most people have suffered from sleeplessness in their lives, perhaps during illness or times of stress, however insomnia is an intense form of sleeplessness that can continue for weeks and even months, and it’s incredibly common in America.

2. 30% of Americans will occasionally suffer from symptoms of insomnia.

3. As many as 95% of Americans report an episode of insomnia at some point in their lives.

95% of Americans report an episode of insomnia at some point in their lives

4. 10% of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia.

Approximately 1 Out of Every 10 Americans Suffers From Chronic Insomnia
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5. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, much more common than night terrors or sleep walking.

  • Insomnia is a serious condition that can have a significant impact not just on the economy but also on the safety of our roads.

6. In the USA, an estimated $63 billion is lost in work performance due to insomnia each year.

7. Insomnia is one of the major contributing factors to deaths in car accidents.

History of Insomnia

You may think insomnia is a relatively recent occurrence however when you look at stories from history you can see that this is a condition that people have suffered from for many years.

However insomnia didn’t get an official title until much later, when it became recognized as a real condition.

8. The term “insomnia” first appeared in the dictionary in 1623 and was given the meaning “want of sleep”.

Did You Know?

The ancient tale of Gilgamesh from 2700 BCE is the story of an insomniac who can’t sleep while mourning the loss of an intimate friend. Luckily it’s solved with reverse psychology as the leader of the underworld instructs him to stay awake for seven more nights to gain immortality. He fails.

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

  • There are a number of known causes of insomnia and many different symptoms that have been identified but unfortunately there are still not enough effective treatment options available.


Aside from conditions that are found to cause insomnia such as arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, there are a number of other factors which have been found to make insomnia worse.

9. More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety.

10. Frequent binge drinking causes insomnia symptoms in older adults.

11. Heavy chronic smoking increases the likelihood of insomnia in older adults.

12. Drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime has disruptive effects on sleep.

13. People who work night shifts are at higher risk of suffering from insomnia.


“Only stress causes insomnia.”

Stress is one factor that can cause insomnia but there are also many others such as genetics, smoking, alcohol and hormones.


Insomnia can impact the body and mind in many different ways and has so many symptoms, some of which might be unexpected.

14. Those who suffer from insomnia are more likely to suffer from hallucinations.

15. People with insomnia are 20 times more likely to develop a panic disorder.

16. Individuals with acute insomnia exhibit more stress, poorer mood and worse sleep continuity.

  • Insomnia really can have a huge impact on your mood, with studies showing that people with insomnia were five times more likely to develop depression.

Did You Know?

Insomnia can be genetic. In fact scientists have identified seven different insomnia genes.

17. A number of studies link insomnia with memory problems.

Did You Know?

Insomnia can be fatal. Fatal familial insomnia is a rare genetic disease that stops a person falling to sleep, eventually leading to death.

18. Poor sleep increases the occurrence of migraines.

Get your facts straight!

Sleep Facts

Health Facts


A lot of research is being done in to how to effectively treat insomnia, with talking therapies currently being one of the most recommended options.

19. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia.

20. Yoga has shown to help with the effects of insomnia.

Yoga Can Help With the Effects of Insomnia

Did You Know?

Sleeping pills are often recommended as a treatment for insomnia, however there are risks associated with taking them on a long term basis.

21. Roughly 4% of Americans aged over 20 use prescription sleeping pills each month.

22. People taking prescribed sleep medications are more likely to die early.

Regular Use of Prescribed Sleep Medications Can Lead to an Early Death
  • In a two and a half year study, published in the BMJ Open journal, researchers found that there was an increased of risk of death in those that took sleeping pills.
  • The authors estimated that sleeping pills were associated with 320,000 to 507,000 extra deaths in the US during 2010.

Who is affected by insomnia?

There are a number of different groups of people who are more prone to insomnia, including those who suffer from mental health problems.

23. 90% of depressed people also suffer from insomnia.

24. Women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.

Women Are up to Twice as Likely to Suffer from Insomnia than Men
  • The reasons women are thought to suffer from insomnia more than men are mood changes, hormones and the responsibilities brought on by children and family.
  • Insomnia is a particular problem for women whilst pregnant and also during the menopausal years.

25. During the menopause 40%-50% of women experience problems with sleep.

26. Insomnia during pregnancy affects approximately 78% of women.

27. Adults over 65 are the most likely to suffer from insomnia.

28. 25% of children suffer from insomnia.

29. Teenage sufferers of insomnia are at a higher risk of depression.

30. Approximately 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia.

Fun Facts about Insomnia

Of course there’s nothing fun about insomnia, but there a number of interesting assumptions that have been made about insomnia over the years.

31. Historically those suffering from insomnia were perceived as morally suspect. The Devil himself was seen as an insomniac.

32. Vincent Van Gogh was an insomniac.

33. In Shakespeare’s plays, insomnia is often a condition that befalls an unsettled mind.

34. Animals can be insomniacs too. Washington University School of Medicine bred insomniac flies and found their behaviors resembled people with insomnia in many ways.

35. Counting sheep does not help you fall asleep at night.

Counting sheep does not help you fall asleep at night

Researchers from Oxford University carried out a study to see whether the age-old advice of counting sheep really helped you fall asleep.

  • According to their research it didn’t help, in fact imagining yourself on the beach worked much better.


  1. WebMD. (2017) An Overview of Insomnia. [Online] Available from: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/insomnia-symptoms-and-causes [Accessed 7 March 2018].
  2. Cunnington, D. & Junge, M. (2016) Chronic insomnia: diagnosis and non-pharmacological management. [Online] Available from: http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i5819 [Accessed 7 March 2018].
  3. GradeSaver. (2018) The Epic of Gilgamesh. [Online] Available from: http://www.gradesaver.com/the-epic-of-gilgamesh/study-guide/summary-tablet-xi [Accessed 19 March 2018].
  4. Harvard Medical School. (2016) Sleep and Mood. [Online] Available from: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood [Accessed 7 March 2018].
  5. Hammerschlag, A. R. et al. (2017) Genome-wide association analysis of insomnia complaints identifies risk genes and genetic overlap with psychiatric and metabolic traits. [Online] Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/ng.3888 [Accessed 7 March 2018].
  6. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. (2016) Fatal familial insomnia. [Online] Available from: https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6429/fatal-familial-insomnia [Accessed 7 March 2018].